Beloved medical drama Grey’s Anatomy has officially ended its 17th season, with plans to return next fall. But it was a tricky year, as Grey’s adopted strict health protocols and addressed COVID-19 in-universe. I recently had the privilege of speaking with Jo Wilson actress Camilla Luddington about her time at Grey Sloan Memorial, where she explained how changes to filming positively affected the cast.
Camilla Luddington is one of the longest running characters on Grey’s Anatomy’s current cast, dating back to Season 9. She was able to return to work as the show addressed the pandemic, with the cast wearing appropriate masks/face shields both on and off camera. I asked Luddington if there were was any silver lining to these new working conditions, and she responded with:
A lot of times we have such a big cast and we’re working with different people every day. And we’re all together, and then not. I think the one thing that happened this year is we were sort of in pods with the people we would work with so that we weren’t coming in contact with too many people all the time. So I think that we all got closer with different people. Jake Borelli has become my brother this season, we worked so much together.
That’s certainly one way to bond with your co-workers. One of the ways that Season 17 of Grey’s Anatomy was able to resume filming was by keeping its cast in separate pods, helping to reduce exposure for actors as they returned to work. While this no doubt created challenges, it seems that it might have also helped members of the ensemble to bond.
Camilla Luddington’s words from our conversation offered glimpse behind what it was really like to bring Grey’s Anatomy to life for Season 17. It seems like a giant puzzle for the producers and writers, one that miraculously got pulled off. And in the process, Luddington was able to bond with Levi Schmidtt aka Glasses actor Jake Borelli. After all, he did move in with Jo.
When Grey’s Anatomy finally returned to our TV screens, we watched as various characters were paired off. Amelia and Link were at home with all the kids, Meredith took visits in her beach dream, and Maggie spent time with Winston. As for Camilla Luddington’s Jo, she spent much of her scenes with either Jackson or Levi.
Despite those pods, Camilla Luddington also shared with me how the Grey’s Anatomy cast leaned on each other throughout Season 17. While the characters faced unprecedented times, we were doing the same in the real world. Luddington shared what this supportive environment felt like, saying:
There’s also the camaraderie of working in a pandemic, which we’ve never done before, for the first time together. And being able to tell each other ‘Hey I’m feeling anxious about this.’ It brought us all a little bit closer at the end of the day. And just thankful to see each other. A Lot of this was filmed when we were still in a very strict lockdown in Los Angeles. So just to be able to go and speak to another human being. I just think we appreciated each other a lot more.
Another solid point. Many of us spent a great deal of time over the last year isolated in our homes. And so when Camilla Luddington and the cast of Grey’s Anatomy finally returned to set for Season 17, they were seemingly thrilled to have the connection with friendly faces. Even if that meant speaking from each other across the room or acting with face shields.
With Season 17 in the rear view and Grey’s Anatomy renewed for another, it should be interesting to see how many of these health protocols will still be kept in place. The world is opening up again with vaccinations rolling out, which might allow for group scenes and more character pairings. Regardless, fans are going to tune in to check in on the surgeons, including Camilla Luddington’s Jo Wilson.
Grey’s Anatomy airs Thursdays on ABC. Be sure to check out the 2021 summer premiere list to plan your next binge watch.